I have a note book that I keep by my bedside and when I have a weird thought or an idea I write it down in there. I recently wrote ‘Freud on cats – narcissism’ and this morning when I woke up, for the life of me I couldn’t remember what that was about.
I googled ‘Freud on cats’, ‘Freud cats narcissism’ and nothing initially jogged my memory. However, in my search I learnt that Freud did not like cats, which sparked my interest as a cat lover. It is commonly assumed that he did. He is even attributed with saying ‘Time spent with cats is never wasted’. He didn’t say this. For most of his life, he preferred dogs and books to cats. According to the Freud Museum in London (the authority of which I do not doubt) he once said, in contradiction to his alleged famous cat quote: I, as is well known, do not like cats’.
Determined not to give up I kept googling various combinations of ‘Freud and cats’, ‘Freud narcissism cats’, ‘Freud narcissistic cat’ as I knew there must be something there, and eventually I hit jackpot.
It is true, Freud, largely, did not like cats. However, he was once bewitched by a cat. He started off disliking the creatures and probably said the above words during this phase in his life. But, the truth is, he was turned into a cat lover, by a cat.
I put it to you, dear reader, that this beguiling cat was one of the many cats plotting to take over the world and in this aim, this cat managed to create a whole branch of thinking in the world of psychoanalysis which sticks with us today. This cat, very cleverly, led Freud to come up with his thoughts on narcissism. These thoughts, which turned into a book, it could be argued, contributed to the rise of feminism in the 1960s and beyond. Therefore, I argue that the cat is responsible for existence of the feminist movement and feminist thought. If it wasn’t for the cat, we wouldn’t have had Margaret Thatcher. If it wasn’t for Margaret Thatcher, the British economy wouldn’t be in such a state and we wouldn’t have as much support for the likes of UKIP as we do. I suspect that this is part of the cats’ grand master plan to take over the world. They are going to lure us into chaos and then strike. The story hasn’t finished yet. I’m not sure what is going to happen next. One thing I am sure of, the cats know.
So back to earth, how did this cat bewitch Freud? I will tell you the story.
Freud’s friend and contemporary, Lou Andreas-Salomé, I have found out, wrote an entry in her dairy in 1913 recounting a story Freud had told her about his one encounter with a cat. This story is called ‘die reizende Erzaehlung von der “narzisstischen Katze”‘ (the charming tale of the ‘narcissistic cat”‘). I quote from her diary:
When Freud maintained his office on the ground floor, the cat had climbed in through the open windows. He did not care much for cats or dogs or animals generally, and in the beginning the cat aroused mixed feelings in him, especially when it climbed down from the sofa on which it had made itself comfortable and began to inspect in passing the antique objects which he had placed for the time being on the floor.… But when the cat proceeded to make known its archaeological satisfaction by purring and with its lithe grace did not cause the slightest damage, Freud’s heart melted and he ordered milk for it. From then on the cat claimed its rights daily to take a place on the sofa, inspect the antiques and get its bowl of milk. However, despite Freud’s increasing affection and admiration, the cat paid him not a bit of attention and coldly turned its green eyes with their slanting pupils towards him as toward any other object…. Finally, after this unequal relationship had lasted a long time without any change, one day he found the cat feverish and gasping on the sofa. And although it was most painstakingly treated with hot fomentations and other remedies, it succumbed to pneumonia, leaving naught of itself but a symbolic picture of all the peaceful and playful charm of true egoism.
So there are two conclusions here. Freud did grow to like cats despite what the Freud Museum in London claims. Cats are indeed very dangerous creatures if they are capable of influencing the intellectual thought of the father of psychoanalysis, and through him changing the minds of a nation’s population (and indeed the world’s) and we need to watch them very, very closely.